Where to Go to Enjoy Time Outside in Trego County

Looking for something safe to do with your kids during this unexpected school closure and Spring Break? Trego County has many sites and landmarks that are great places to learn and play outdoors!

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Hiking and Fishing at Cedar Bluff State Park & Reservoir

Cedar Bluff State Park & Reservoir is continuing to rise and it’s currently at the highest point it’s been in years! State Park officials have turned on the water to the Despatch and Hoonii Campgrounds. The North bathhouse (located by the rental cabins) is open for public use.

Your child will be thrilled when they hook a fish at Pa’s Pond. Located in the Bluffton Area on the North Shore, this is a stocked pond with shade trees that are perfect for a picnic when the weather is nice.

The Cedar Bluff Office is closed to public access at this time and staff will be available by phone. We encourage everyone to use the HuntFish KS and Campit KS apps to purchase all your privileges and reservations prior to visiting the park.

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Let your kids run off extra energy at Cedar Bluff State Park’s 5-mile Agave Ridge Nature Trail. The first mile is paved and an easy walk for everyone. Interpretive signs of flora and fauna in the area. The next four miles is a mowed trail that leads to a beautiful view of the 100-ft. bluffs that gives the park its name. This is a more difficult trail for ambitious hikers. Spring is the perfect time to see the blooming flowers and playful animals enjoying the warm weather and this is a great trail to view them.

The Agave Ridge Trail is accessed through the Page Creek Area on the South Shore of Cedar Bluff State Park and is managed on Wildlife Area lands; vehicle permits are required to access the trail head.


NOTE: The bridge over the Cedar Bluff Reservoir spillway is currently under construction on K-147 until August 2020. The road is closed for 1.8 miles, but the rest of the highway is open to travelers. KDOT has created a 60-mile detour around the lake. For a shorter detour, take one of Trego County’s scenic country roads, such as TR CO U or X. Just Make sure road conditions are good, especially after wet weather.

To get to the North Shore: Access to all the north side landmarks can be reached as usual from I-70 at the Ogallah exit traveling south on K-147. (Emanuel Lutheran Church, the Bluffton Campground, Cedar Bluff State Park’s office, Threshing Machine Canyon, and the BOD Marker) 

To Get to the South Shore: Access the South Shore by traveling north on K-147 from Hwy 4 at Brownell. (Page Creek Campground, Agave Ridge Hiking Trail, and the Scenic Bluff Overlook)


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Paleontology on the Prairie

Science class is right under your feet at Castle Rock, the Badlands. Go fossil hunting for sharks’ teeth that date back millions of years to when the Great Inland Sea divided the North America continent in half.

Your kids can imagine the giant prehistoric fish that once lived in the rock’s nooks and crannies and swam right above their heads. The geological features of the Kansas prairie are also a perfect example of how water and wind affect rocks over millions of years.

A Wildlife Safari

Bring your binoculars with you to catch a glimpse of a few of our wild neighbors. White tail and mule deer, coyotes, jackrabbits, and a prairie songbirds, like meadowlarks and red winged blackbirds, fill our prairie. Early morning is the best time to see these animals but beware of rattlesnakes in the rocky areas where they may be sunning themselves.

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Smoky Valley Scenic Byway

The stories of our ancestors come to life at historical landmarks along the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway. Look for one of the Butterfield Overland Despatch (B.O.D.) limestone posts along Hwy. 147 south of Cedar Bluff State Park’s Bluffton Area. It’s just one several markers placed along the historic Smoky Hill Trail in the 1960s to map out the route early pioneers used to travel to the Colorado gold mines over 100 years ago.

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The Wilcox School

Visit one of the last remaining rural schoolhouses in Trego County, Wilcox School. It’s a great opportunity to point out how different students experienced school over a hundred years ago. To get to the school travel 15-miles south on Hwy. 283 south of WaKeeney. Several interpretive panels in the windows tell how the school was used 1886 to the present day and one panel will help you learn more about the native wildflowers found along the byway during the growing season.

Stop at the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway’s informational kiosks located along Hwy. 283 and WaKeeney’s Eisenhower Park at Exit 127 for more lessons on the history and environment of our county and city.

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History and Fun at WaKeeney’s City Parks

WaKeeney is home to great parks and playgrounds. Let them run free on the vast lawn of the Courthouse Square in Downtown WaKeeney.

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Plan a picnic at the Swimming Pool Park. With playground equipment for all ages and covered shelters, families can spend hours at the park without running out of things to do.

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City Landmarks

WaKeeney is home to several war memorials that illustrate America’s role in conflicts around the globe and the sacrifices made by the men and women of our military.

Iwo Jima Memorial

You’ll find the Iwo Jima Memorial at I-70’s east Exit #128, an F-14 jet at Eisenhower Park, a Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial at Courthouse Square, and the KansasVeteran’s Cemetery one mile north of the Iwo Jima memorial on Hwy. 283.

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 Time Out for Parents at Big Creek Golf Course

Spend time teach your kids the game of golf at Big Creek Golf Course. The nine-hole course is arolling prairie with native Buffalo grass fairways and lush, watered greens. With a yardage of 6251, a slope of 122 and a rating of 69.6, you’ll have the opportunity to send that ball sailing in an arc across the big, beautiful prairie sky.

More Ideas

There are even more ways to enjoy time outside in Trego County!

TJH Kay has put together a “Social Distancing Scavenger Hunt” for March 25-April 15. The “Pillars of Education” theme encourages the community to display things in their windows that correspond with the topic of the week. Kids can find them when they are out on walks and enter weekly to win the Family Prize Pack by texting (785) 769-3297 or posting a picture of your participation on KAY Sponsor Stacie Edgett Minson’s Facebook page. (Check out the flyer above for ideas to place in your window.)

Take your little ones on a “Bear Hunt” through town. Several of our citizens have placed teddy bears in the windows of their homes for kids to look for as they pass by. Check out the Facebook page dedicated to the event for more information.

Geocaching is a great way to explore the outdoors through a challenging game and give your kids a lesson about how to use coordinates to locate landmarks.

Anyone who’s attended TCHS knows the glory of “dragging Main,” so let’s crank up the tunes and do it again! Drag Main – WaKeeney! Let’s Do It Again! will be held Saturday, March 28that 8pm. There will be a box on the corner of First Federal for anyone who would like to donate non-perishable items to family food boxes. This is a repeat of an earlier event that saw great success, with over 70 cars and 124 canned goods and other items donated to our friends in need. Check out their Facebook page for more information.

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Family Memories

While it’s important to social distance ourselves at this time, you don’t have to stay indoors. Get out and make some memories with your kids! You’ll find many activities and learning opportunities right outside your door in Trego County.

 

Kansas Rocks! A Spring Break “Staycation” in Western Kansas

Whether you wear cowboy boots or hiking boots, you don’t have to go far for a memorable and affordable Spring Break. Plan a “staycation” in Trego, Gove, Logan, and Scott counties and you’ll find out that Kansas Rocks!

Here are a few of family-friendly spots to consider when planning your day trip or overnight stay in WaKeeney. (A $5 vehicle permit that will allow access into both Cedar Bluff and Lake Scott State Parks, as well as all other state parks in Kansas.)

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Cedar Bluff Overlook

Start your day watching the famous Kansas sunrise from the top of the 100-ft. limestone cliffs at Cedar Bluff Reservoir! Grab a coffee in WaKeeney then head out to the lake where prairie songbirds are waking up and greeting their neighbors. We’ve had an abundance of rain this year and the south shore provides a spectacular view of the lake and the wildlife who live in the park.

To get to Cedar Bluff Scenic Overlook take I-70 to Exit #127 at WaKeeney and turn south. Travel 18-miles south on Hwy 283, then turn east on Trego County AA Rd. Proceed east for 4 miles, north on Trego County 290 and follow the signs.This area of the park is free to the public.

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Castle Rock & its Badlands

Just west of Trego’s county line is Castle Rock and its Badlands. This geological feature is evidence of Western Kansas’s prehistoric past as the shoreline of the Western Interior Seaway… Fossils can still be found in the limestone rock formations and many short trails that wind through the Castle Rock and the Badlands.

To get toCastle Rock and the Badlandstake I-70 Exit #115 at Collyer, turn south and travel12.4 miles south on Banner Rd. Then, turn west and travel 2.8 miles, on Trego County U Rd. It will become Gove County K Rd. Turn into the pasture that has the Castle Rock sign & cross cattle guard. Pay attention to weather conditions, as the limestone trail can become difficult to drive on. Castle Rock is free to the public.

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Buffalo Bill Cultural Center

“GoWest, young man!” to Logan County where a 16-ft. bronze sculpture of the Old West hero Buffalo Bill “races” after an American buffalo. The privately funded installation was first created in clay, then broken into over 100 smaller pieces and cast separately. Once cooled, the pieces were welded together and a layer of patina as applied to the outside. Today, it welcomes visitors outside the Buffalo Bill Cultural Center, a cultural history museum that includes many artifacts from that legendary time period.

The Buffalo Bill Cultural Center and its Buffalo Bill Bronze Statue take I-70 to Exit #76 or    #70 Oakley. This museum is free to the public.

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Fick Fossil & History Museum

Stare down an enormous, fearsome prehistoric fish fossil at Oakley’s Fick Fossil & History Museum. Over 11,000 marine fossils are included in the museum’s collection, including a 15-ft. Xiphactinus Audax and the world’s oldest known mosasaur fossil with a rare intact eye socket. Other exhibits include artifacts from pioneer days and a “Funky Fossil Folk Art display.

Fick Fossil Museumis located just off I-70 at Exit #76 or #70 Oakley. There is no fee to visit the museum. A donation is suggestion.

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Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park

Explore the surreal landscape of Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park, Kansas’s newest state park. This 330-acre park was established in 2019 and features white chalk rock spires dating back 85-million years. Named for their resemblance to the ancient rock walls of Jerusalem, the area was once home to giant prehistoric clams and oysters, but now visitors will find ferruginous hawks, cliff swallows, rock wrens and several species of amphibians and reptiles living in the rock crevasses. There is a 1/4-mile scenic overlook trail and a 1-1/2 mile self-guided trail to explore, and a two-hour naturalist guided hike into the outcroppings is also available by booking ahead.

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Monument Rocks

Visit the Badlands nearby neighbor Monument Rocks for more paleontology explorations. The 70-ft. chalk formations date to the Cretaceous Period and has been designated as one of the “8 Wonders of Kansas.” Photographers often gather at sunrise and sunset to capture dramatic images of the sun’s softening colors reflected on the white limestone cliffs.

Both Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park and Monument Rocks are located south of Oakley on Hwy. 83.A daily or annual vehicle permit for $5 is required to visit Little Jerusalem Badlands and there is a strict no-collection policy that applies to paleontological and all other finds atthe site.

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Keystone Gallery

Stop by the Keystone Gallery and enjoy the art of Chuck Bonner and Barbara Shelton in the gallery’s Prairie Ocean exhibition. The gallery’s building was built from native limestone in 1917 to serve the community as a church. Today, you’ll find Bonner and Shelton’s paintings, landscape photography, and more. An additional collection includes a 20-ft. Mosasaur and fossils of several fish, reptiles, and bird species.

The Keystone Gallery is located on Hwy 83 South of Oakley.

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Historic Lake Scott State Park

Tucked inside a prairie canyon, Lake Scott State Park is both an archeological site and a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Listed on National Geographic’s “50 must-see state parks,” it features natural springs, deep wooded canyons, craggy bluffs, and a number of important early American historical sites.

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Battle Canyon at Lake Scott

Battle Canyon, the location of the last Native American battle in Kansas is located in a canyon about 1-mile south of the park. The Battle of Punished Woman’s Fork was a clash between US Troops from Fort Dodge and Northern Cheyenne people led by Chief Dull Knife and Little Wolf. During the battle, Lt. Colonel William Lewis was mortally wounded in the thigh, becoming the last army officer fatality in Kansas during the Indian Wars.

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El Quartelejo Ruins at Lake Scott

During the 1600s, Taos Indians from the Southwest fled north to the High Plains to escape oppressive Spanish rule. They settled near Lake Scott in what is now known as the El Quartelejo Pueblo Ruins. In 1701 a group of Picuris Native Americans resided there for two years, and by 1727 is was abandoned and left to deteriorate until only a mound and a few irrigation ditches remained. The site was rediscovered in the mid-1890s and today you can see the pueblo’s reconstructed foundation at the site. Evidence of an Apache roasting pit and floors, hearths, and spots where support beams were placed to support the structure can also be seen.

To get to Lake Scott State Park, Battle Canyon and the El Quartelejo Ruinscontinue down Hwy 83 between Oakley & Scott City

 

Plan a Western Kansas “staycation” for your family’s Spring Break this year and enjoy the history, beauty, and adventure in your own backyard!

 

3 “Don’t Miss” Trego County Day Trips

Traveling down a country road is often the best way to explore the amazing beauty and many surprises found throughout Western Kansas. With that in mind we’ve compiled three day trips within Trego County that will delight and excite you as you cruise down the “road less traveled.”


NOTE: The bridge over the Cedar Bluff Reservoir spillway is currently under construction on K-147 until August 2020. The road is closed for 1.8 miles, but the rest of the highway is open to travelers. KDOT has created a 60-mile detour around the lake. For a shorter detour, take one of Trego County’s scenic country roads, such as TR CO U or X. Just make sure road conditions are good, especially after wet weather. 

To get to the North Shore: Access to all the north side landmarks can be reached as usual from I-70 at the Ogallah exit traveling south on K-147. (Emanuel Lutheran Church, the Bluffton Campground, Cedar Bluff State Park’s office, Threshing Machine Canyon, and the BOD Marker)

To Get to the South Shore: Access the South Shore by traveling north on K-147 from Hwy 4 at Brownell. (Page Creek Campground, Agave Ridge Hiking Trail, and the Scenic Bluff Overlook)


Trego County Day Trips

Day Trip 1: The Smoky Valley Scenic Byway

Begin your exploration on the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway! There are eight features along the 60-mile route that offer insight into the landscape and history of the region.

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Begin your drive by turning off I-70 at Ogallah and head south at Hwy. 147 and drive to the Emanuel Lutheran Church. Constructed in 1902 by Swedish immigrants using native limestone, it is a beautiful example of the craftsmanship of our early settlers.

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Just down the road from the church is Cedar Bluff State Park & Reservoir, Trego County’s scenic natural playground.

As you continue drive on K-147 to the Bluffton area keep a sharp eye out for a quarried limestone post with “BOD 1865” carved into its front. It is located south of the turn into the park’s Bluffton Area and the Cedar Bluff State Park office. It marks the Butterfield Overland Despatch route that took early pioneers to the goldmines in Colorado. It is one of several that trace the historic trail from Atchison, Kansas to Denver and was erected in the 1960s as a memorial to the arduous journey.Nearby, you can hike a trail leading to Threshing Machine Canyon where pioneers carved messages into the limestone rock as they traveled west.

The Cedar Bluff State Park office has several brochures that can add to your experience along the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway, and park officials can give you tips to help you get the most out of your day trip, including spending time at the 350-acre Bluffton Area campground and picnic area.


 NOTE: At this point, due to the bridge construction, you will either have to turn around and take the KDOT detour (60-miles) to the South Shore or take the shorter detour on the Trego County roads.

 Suggested Alternative Route: We suggest a more scenic country road that starts at Trego CO CC Road from K-147 on the east side of the reservoir and connects to Hwy 283 on the west side. Follow the road, which eventually becomes Trego CO AA Road as it continues west, then turn toward the Scenic Bluff Overlook turnoff.


 Once you reach the south side of the reservoir, we suggest taking the scenic country road to the Page Creek Area, the Agave Ridge Hiking Trail, and the Cedar Bluff Overlook. It’s a beautiful natural area where visitors often spot wildlife in the prairie grasses and along the shore.

The overlook boasts towering 100-foot limestone bluffs that is a perfect place to take in beautiful landscape and Cedar Bluff Reservoir.

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When you reach Hwy. 283 turn north to WaKeeney and make a stop at the Wilcox School, a one-room schoolhouse built in 1886. The limestone was quarried along the Smoky Hill River and brought to the site by local stonemasons. For sixty years it was used as a school and community center, and eventually a motorcycle club claimed it as their clubhouse. Today, you’ll find informative panels that provide details into the history of the building, the region, and the wildflowers growing in the area.

Get to know our prairie better at the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway Kiosk. It is full of information about the surrounding flora and fauna and interesting historical facts that occurred in the area.

Look for a beautiful example of early Volga-German construction at the Zion Lutheran Church. Built in 1905,it continues to be an active church, with many of the original descendants still filling the pews.

Eisenhower Park

End your adventure inWaKeeney, Trego’s county seat. You’ll find beautiful parks, friendly businesses, hotels and restaurants, and many fun festivals happening throughout the year. Be sure to stop by the F-14 Fighter Jet in Eisenhower Park near Exit #127 to view the interpretive panels about WaKeeney and Trego County before you begin your road trip.

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Day Trip 2: Shiloh Vineyard

Enjoy a glass of Trego County sunshine at Shiloh Vineyard!

This family-owned winery was founded in 2008 by Kirk & Treva Johnston and is the only vineyard located in Western Kansas. All varieties of their wine are produced from fruit harvested on the Johnston family farm and includes dry whites, dry reds, semi-sweet white, fruit, and dessert wines. Shiloh offers regular wine tastings and an informative tour of the production facility, vineyard, and surrounding landscape. They often host special events and classes throughout the year.  To get to Shiloh Vineyard travel west from WaKeeney on I-70 seven miles to Exit #120 on Voda Road. Turn south on Voda Road/180 Avenue and travel 4 1/2 miles to M Road. Turn west on M Road and drive 1-mile to the vineyard.

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Day Trip 3: Castle Rock

Take a trip into the past with a visit to Castle Rockone of the most notable features on our prairie. The large chalk pillar was formed from limestone deposits during the mid- to late Cretaceous period when a great inland sea divided North America. Designated as one of the “8 Wonders of Kansas,” it was used as a landmark for pioneers  and has become a favorite among today’s fossil hunters. To find Castle Rock take I-70 at Exit #115 to Collyer, turn south on Banner Road/130 Avenue and travel for approximately 12.4 miles to TR CO U. Turn west on TR CO U Rd and travel approximately 2.8 miles. You will be traveling from Trego County to Gove County, where the road becomes GO CO K. Turn into the pasture at the Castle Rock sign, cross the cattle guard, and stop at the overlook to enjoy the view below of Castle Rock and it’s nearby rocky neighbor call the Badlands. You may drive down into the valley below but pay attention to the road conditions and the weather as the chalk dust can get slick and sticky.

Before you head out on your day trip through Trego County grab aWaKeeney Visitor’s Guide & Map. In it you’ll find all the roads in Trego County mapped out for you to explore “off the beaten path” where the scenery and landscape come alive. You can find them at many different locations in WaKeeney or at the Cedar Bluff Office at the North Shore or at Sport Haven.

See Western Kansas’s beauty, grandeur, and historical significance on a day trip through Trego County!

Cupid Comes to WaKeeney for Valentine’s Day

They say you fall in love through your stomach. Whether or not that’s true, this Valentine’s Day you are sure to find what your true love wants most at one of WaKeeney’s many delicious restaurants and gift stores!

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Special Valentine’s Day Events

The Brazen Bull has a night of romance planned this Friday, with a candlelight dinner for two and live music. Gaze at your true love over a flat iron steak or chicken parmesan and cheesecake with hand dipped tuxedo strawberries.

The chefs at the Brazen Bull have the heartbroken folks covered, too, with great deals all day during their “Shred ‘em and Forget ‘em” special, such as 25% off all appetizers! Check out the Brazen Bull Facebook page for more details. (Ph. 785.743.2653)

Shiloh Vineyard will be hosting a Valentine’s Dinner on Saturday, February 15th. Chef Ryan Sultzer is creating a five-course gourmet meal specially chosen to pair with Shiloh’s wine selection. This is a very popular event and reservations sell out quickly, so keep your eye on Shiloh’s Facebook page next January to get your 2021 table saved early. (Ph. 785.259.2146)

The Studio 128 can save a seat for you on Friday, February 14thor Saturday, February 15that a candlelight dinner prepared by Chef Ean Mong. Bring your favorite wine or champagne and your sweetheart for this special event. Check out The Studio 128’s Facebook page for more details. (Ph. 785.814.7170)

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More to Love!

The Western Kansas Saloon & Grill serves up the best traditional Western style dishes and authentic Old West atmosphere in their historic Downtown WaKeeney location. Toast your love over carefully prepared steak and potatoes with a cocktail prepared especially for you. (Ph. 785.743.2050)

Jake & Chet’s is favoried by culinary connoisseurs who have a love of homestyle cooking. Owners and chefs, Jake and Chet have twenty-plus years of experience serving regional favorites that you’ll fall in love with, too! (Ph. 785.743.2211)

Tropical Mexican Restaurant serves up a plate of spicy love for you to enjoy with your special someone. Start with fresh salsa and end with a South-of-the-Border tropical cocktail. Nobody can resist the scrumptious taste of Mexico! (Ph. 785.743.2219)

Mike’s Place’s menu is chock-full of the most beloved pub grub you’ll find in America. Burgers, sandwiches, and your favorite brews are awaiting your arrival at Mike’s Place! It’s the perfect place for a date night you both will enjoy. (Ph. 785.743.2641)

Pizza Hut has been loved by three generations of Trego County residents. Deep Dish, Thin and Crispy, or Hand Tossed; it doesn’t matter—we love them all! Add on some wings and you have yourself a meal to remember. (Ph. 785.743.2383)

Subway will keep your figure nice and trim when you share a footlong sandwich with your loved one. Pick from fresh ingredients to customize your sandwich just the way you like it. (Ph. 785.743.5248)

McDonald’s has a reputation of being America’s favorite fast food restaurant, and everyone knows why. The burgers, the shakes, and the fries! If you love the taste of a good burger cooked for you in minutes, hit up WaKeeney’s McDonald’s. (Ph. 785.743.2911)

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Valentine’s Specialty Foods

Hometown Bakerycan craft a delicious cookie bouquet your Valentine. They have a full case of delectable treats to choose from so every taste will find something to love.Give them a call to order something special today. (Ph. 785.743.6494)

Dairy Queenwill help you look cool when you’re under the pressure of a Valentine’s date. Share a sundae, a Blizzard, or grab two straws to share a large chocolate malt.(Ph. 785.743.2160)

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Gibson Healthmart has a wide variety of gifts that are perfect for your sweetheart. Jewelry and accessories, candy bouquets, stuffed animals, balloons, or even a Valentine’s Day card with a heartfelt message that will tell them your sentiments when your too shy to say them. And, Gibson’s is the place to go for a wide variety of fresh or silk flowers that can be delivered right to your loved one’s door! (Ph. 785.743.5753)

Cleland Pharmacy can put together a gift basket with all the essentials for a Valentine spa date night.Showthem you love them by pampering them with products that will help take the stress away and bring a moment of peace into their lives. (Ph. 785.743.6321)

Malay’s Market can help you create a perfectdinner for two in your very own home. Show her how much you love her by treating her to your special recipe, whether it’s a four course meal or a casserole. (Ph. 785.743.2031)

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Pit Road Liquor carries a wide selection of wine, liquor, and, the Valentine’s Day staple, champagne. Find your favorite to share with your special someone on the big night. Pit Road Liquor is now carrying the “Beer Box,” too! These beer coolers come with an expanded selection of brews for a gift that keeps on giving. (Ph. 785.743.5637)

Earl Liquor Store offerslocal vintages, international spirits, and everything in between. Each one has its own unique personality so you can match your pick with the person you’ll be giving it to. (Ph. 785.743.2091)

Valentine’s Day is for lovers and in WaKeeney you’ll get all you need to make that day special for you both.

 

 

 

 

Limestone: Trego County’s Foundation Stone

Throughout Trego County you’ll find unique white rock formations breaking through our vast prairie. These chalky outcroppings are evidence of the great Western Inland Seaway that divided the North American continent millions of years ago. Today, you’ll find the same rock has been used in many of the most notable buildings you’ll find on the Great Plains.

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Niobrara Chalk

The majority of the limestone found within Trego County’s borders is classified as Niobrara Chalk, a geologic deposit created between 85 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period. It is a soft stone formed from calcium deposits that easily flakes apart to reveal fossils of plesiosaurs, mosasaurs, pterosaurs, sharks, and primitive aquatic birds.

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Fossilized Oyster Shells, Image by James St. John

Geological maps show the largest deposits of Niobrara Chalk limestone are located in the southern section of Trego County in the Smoky Hill River Valley, where you’ll find exposed sections at Cedar Bluff Overlook in the Cedar Bluff State Park and Castle Rock southwest of Collyer. More examples are to be found at Monument Rocks in neighboring Gove County and at Little Jerusalem, Kansas’s newest state park which is located south of Oakley. For a tour of these sites head south from WaKeeney on Hwy. 283 to begin at Cedar Bluff State Park & Reservoir, then follow the Smoky Hill River Valley west to each of these formations in Trego, Gove, and Logan Counties.

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Greenhorn Limestone

Greenhorn limestone, or Post Rock, is a hard limestone found along Trego County’s eastern border. It was formed during the Late Cretaceous period along with Niobrara limestone and includes many of the same marine animal fossils found in the softer, chalky variety of limestone. Today, it is quarried along the eastern border of Trego County.

Due to the lack of wood on the grassy prairie, Post Rock limestone was a primarybuilding materialin the 1800’s. Many early construction projects in Trego County relied on this hard stone, when city founders Albert Warren and James Keeney created their “Queen City of the High Plains.” Here are a few of the most notable buildings that utilized limestone quarried in Trego County.

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The Trego County Courthouse

Built between 1888-1889, the grand Trego County Courthouse is an American Queen Anne style building. At the time of its construction it featured an Elizabethan frontage and a 100-foot cupola imported from Europe. The limestone used on its exterior is Post Rock that was quarried locally, as well as limestone brought from Manhattan, KS.

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The building has undergone a few changes since its construction, but still retains its original limestone exterior.

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Kansas Pacific Railway Depot

WaKeeney’s Kansas Pacific Railway Depot was an ornate railway station completed in 1879 with limestone found along the Saline River and Big Creek. On July 4, 1879, Warren, Keeney & Co. held a grand celebration to advertise their land sales. The Governor of Kansas was present and made a speech from the new depot’s platform. At the time, the magnificent, stone railway depot was described as the best and most modern facility between Kansas City and Denver.  It was acquired by the Union Pacific Railroad and housed their operations until the 1930’s, and later demolished.

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WaKeeney Opera House

One of the most impressive limestone buildings in Trego County was the WaKeeney Opera House. In 1884, this large, attractive building was the center of WaKeeney’s activities, and  entertainment. It had a seating capacity of 400 and featured ornate murals on the ceiling and walls and a large brass chandelier with Rochester electric lamps. The Oprah House cost $20,000 to build andhoused grocery stores, newspapers offices, land offices, real estate agents, the post office, a bank, the school, and the opera hall. This fine example of Great Plains architecture was destroyed by fire on February 4, 1895 and today the site is home to the Trego County Health Department.

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Emanuel Lutheran Church

Today’s Emanuel Lutheran Church used limestone quarried from nearby Threshing Machine Canyon located along the Smoky Hill Trail. It was built by Swedish immigrants in 1902 and was originally christened as the Swedish Evangelical Emmanuel Lutheran Church.

Municipal Building

WaKeeney Municipal Building

The WaKeeney Municipal Building was a project planned in 1937 by the Work Project Administration (WPA) as part of the President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal initiative. It incorporates native limestone blocks in a modern design, with a broad staircase that leads up to a sheltered portico.

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The Wilcox School

The Wilcox School, a one-room schoolhouse located 16-miles south of WaKeeney, was built in 1886 with limestone quarried by area’s early settlers along the Smoky Hill River. They cut it from the river’s south shore and hauled the stone to the building site across natural fords or low-water bridges. Visitors can see this historic landmark up close by traveling south on Hwy. 283.

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B.O.D. Markers

A more recent addition of Post Rock to our landscape are the B.O.D. markers travelers can follow along the historic route of the Butterfield Overland Despatch, Smoky Hill Trail. In 1960, Historian Howard C. Raynesford of Ellis, KS researched the location of the trail and had the posts erected at points where it crossed a North/South road. The markers are engraved with “BOD – 1865” and stand on a concrete base that offers more information.

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 Visit the Trego County Historical Museum

To learn more about our region’s limestone deposits we invite you to visit the Trego County Historical Society Museum. Don’t forget to check out the Purinton Fossil Collection which includes many fine examples Cretaceous period creatures that were in both Niobrara and Post Rock limestone.

 

 

Exploring Kansas Legends and Folktales with the Trego County Historical Society

Giant grasshoppers and elusive jackalopes; Kansas is a place of tall tales and legendary characters, but these exaggerations are more than just interesting stories meant to entertain. They are the stories we share to explain the uniqueness of the Kansas character.

Jim Hoy

In celebration of Kansas Day, the Trego County Historical Society will examine our state’s many legends and folktales and what they say about the communities that keep these stories alive during a presentation on “Kansas Legends and Folktales” with Jim Hoy.

“Kansas Legends and Folktales”

On Sunday, January 26, historian and author Jim Hoy will present “Kansas Legends and Folktales,” an examination of the history of these stories and how they have helped shape the character of our state and its people. As a former director of the Center for Great Plains Studies at Emporia State University and an authority on the folklife of ranching, Hoy is an authority on the subject and has co-authored “Plains Folk,” a syndicated newspaper column focused on rural Kansas life.

This presentation is funded by Kansas HumanitiesMovement of Ideas Speakers Bureau, an organization dedicated to sharing stories that inspire our imaginations, spark informed conversations, and generate insights that strengthen civic engagement through presentations and workshops with experts on the subjects.

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Kansas Day Coloring Contest

Along with the presentation, awards will be handed out to the top recipients of the museum’s annual Kansas Day coloring contest This is the eighth year the Historical Society has sponsored the program for Trego Grade School’s first through fourth grades students and every year the entries focus on places found in Trego County.

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Join us at the Trego County Historical Society Museum in WaKeeney on Sunday, January 26 at 2PM for “Kansas Legends and Folktales” with Jim Hoy. The Kansas Day program is an annual event celebrating our state’s entry into the Union and is free to the public. For more information about this event and others contact the Trego County Historical Society of WaKeeney at (785) 743-2964.

Community Support in the “Christmas City of the High Plains”

Merry Christmas from the “Christmas City of the High Plains!”

People from around the world have come to WaKeeney to celebrate the holidays and make special memories with family and friends under the lights of our famous tree. Located on I-70 halfway between Kansas City and Denver, Colorado, it’s the perfect place for people to gather to celebrate the holiday season. Throughout the year our citizens contribute their time, talents, and funding to continue this wonderful tradition and we’d like to thank them and the organizations who make our Christmas Festival a one-of-a-kind event for everyone.

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Christmas in Downtown WaKeeney

Stringing up thousands of Christmas lights is never an easy job and it takes a team of professionals to get the job done right.

The effort begins long before the Christmas Festival on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Workers from the City of WaKeeney prepare the decorations, wrapping the lights and fresh greenery onto the tree’s metal framework and getting them ready to install. Then, along with workers from Midwest Energy, Western Cooperative Electric, KDOT, and Nex-Tech, they take to their bucket trucks to install everything within a couple of days. We truly appreciate their years of dedicated service to making this event happen, in rain, wind, and snow.

The business community of Downtown WaKeeneyhas supported the Christmas Festival faithfully for 69 years and by doing so have made WaKeeney a special place to celebrate the holidays. This year Christi Werth and Skylin Day at TWI Insurance Services were behind the planning of all the Santa’s Downtown Workshop activities—a fun event kids look forward to every year.

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The Festival Program

What would Christmas be without the sound of Christmas carols, holiday displays, and Christmas cheer? Volunteers from local organizations and private citizens generously offer their talents to create a festival program full of Christmas spirit. Along with the many supporting volunteers, this year we relied on Tom Kreutzer as our master of ceremonies, the Rev. Jon Anderson from the Zion Lutheran Church as our officiant representing the Trego County Ministerial Alliance, and Anita Schneider who led the crowd in singing our favorite Christmas carols.

 

Christmas Spirit Around Town

WaKeeney residents showed a lot of Christmas spirit in 2019 by decorating their homes and yards early with festive colors and lights. The merchants of Santa’s Downtown Workshop rewarded their efforts by holding a contest for the best decorated home. The winning homeowner received a prize of $100 in Wampum bucks they could use at any of the participating Downtown WaKeeney businesses.

Festival guests also had the opportunity to go back in time with the Trego County Historical Society Museum. The “Twelve Days of Christmas” display features Christmas scenes and décor from years past, including the original miniature prototype for the famous 35-foot tree located at the city’s center. The exhibit runs from November 30thto January 6th, so it’s not too late to see if something you remember from your grandma’s house is included!

The VFW Auxiliary kept all our guests warm at their annual Soup Supper. We’ve all come to look forward to the delicious bowls of homemade soup and desserts their members cook up to celebrate the community spirit. Nothing tastes better than a hot bowl of soup on a cold winter’s night!

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Christmas Shopping Made Easy

Christmas shopping was made easy this year when over forty vendors from the Trego Co. Home-Based Business Association offered their wares during the 19thAnnual Christmas Bazaar. This year’s event was so large it filled the Fairground’s Commercial and 4-H buildings, and the TCHS Commons area with products that ranged from home décor, to health and beauty. The Home-based vendors are an important part of our festivities and we appreciate all the work they do throughout the year to fill this event with their exciting products.

The merchants of Downtown WaKeeney continued their tradition of keeping their doors open for extended hours of shopping. They offered their customers great holiday specials and participated in “Santa’s Downtown Workshop” where children enjoyed different crafts and activities at each of their stores. They also added to the season of giving by sponsoring many giveaways and activities for our festival guests.

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Support from Our Local Officials

Support from the officials of the City of WaKeeney is vital to making the Christmas Festival a success. Mayor Kenneth Roy and our City Council Members: Irene Dirks, John Fose, Brandon Payne, Lynelle Shubert, and Allen Weigel and City Administrator Hardy Howard designate funding for the festival. They split the overall cost of supplies—the fresh greenery, light bulbs, etc.–with the Travel & Tourism Department and allow city employees to get them ready for installation.

As they do throughout the year, officers from the WaKeeney City Police Department and the Trego County Sheriff’s Department were present to help guide traffic and ensure that everyone had a safe holiday celebration. Their presence also provided members of our community a great opportunity to meet the people who keep us safe and prepare Child ID Kits for their children.

A special thank you goes to the members of WaKeeney’s Travel & Tourism Committee for the time and attention they dedicate to making the Christmas Festival a memorable event. Appointed by the City of WaKeeney, this volunteer,seven-member committee includes Lynelle Shubert, Tasha Malay, Skylin Day, Cindy Scanlon, Brianna LaMotte, Kirk Johnston, & Mark Wood and is led by its director, Cathy Albert. Their dedication is the foundation of everything we enjoy at the Christmas Festival.

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Our Special Guest: Santa Claus

Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a visit from Santa Claus! Lynelle & John Shubert drove the man of the hour and his elf down Main St. accompanied by two local drummers, Dawson Arnold and Alex Cleland. After flipping the switch that turned on the tree’s lights, Santa and his elf visited with children at Gibson’s Health Mart, where they told him all their wishes for Christmas.

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Thanking the Community

Our gratitude extends to the entire community of WaKeeney for their continued support of the events surrounding the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. The traditions found in our “Christmas City of the High Plains” would not be possible without their participation. They’ve helped us and our guests celebrate and create treasured memories that will last a lifetime.

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Looking Forward to the 70thAnniversary Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in 2020

Next year will be extra special, as we celebrate seventy years as the “Christmas City of the High Plains.” In preparation, we will be building a new Santa House in North Pole Park, funded by a grant from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation. We are also continuing to sell the “Get Lit” t-shirts for $10 each to complete fundraising for the installation of perimeter lights on the Courthouse, a project planned for Spring 2020.

Thank you to all the people who have joined us in celebrating the holidays in WaKeeney, the “Christmas City of the High Plains!”